Maxim Vengerov quitting the violin

April 22, 2008 at 03:39 AM · Just read that Maxim Vengerov is putting down his violin. Never expected such news.

Replies (56)

April 22, 2008 at 03:39 AM · It's not forever, he's just taking an extended break to focus on other things. Knowing him I bet he'll be back playing the violin within a year. Still, though, I agree, bit of a shock. :(

April 22, 2008 at 03:51 AM · I suppose when you perform at that level, much of the joy from playing is lost due to the boredom as a result of the sheer ease you can perform basically any piece with.

April 22, 2008 at 04:21 AM · Are you kidding? The joy in playing comes when you CAN play things with ease. Where's the fun in grunting through something, struggling to get through it in one piece?

April 22, 2008 at 04:28 AM · There's a very strong connection between accomplishment and enjoyment, as the brain rewards you with chemical euphoria for overcoming trials. If one can play so effortlessly that there's no difficulty or hardships to overcome, it can very easily become boring. Especially when you reach a plateau and don't see any improvement, it can become very static.

April 22, 2008 at 04:38 AM · The author says "lessons need to be learned, and fast." I wonder what lessons specifically apply to the concert circuit?

April 22, 2008 at 04:59 AM · Greetings,

it doesn`t surprise me at all that he is looking to conducting. I think I predicted he would in a blog a few years back. I have recently been making a lforay into his recordings over the years and the progresison makes sens eto me. He recored one of the most awesome Paginini cocnertos ever at age 19. His Beethoven sonatas I recently raved about in a blog were actually recorded in 1993 and are tright on the edge of plain scary. A few weeks back I bough his Lalo with the Philarmonia and it was just horrible. Not becuaser he isn`t a genius. Just the opposite. He is such a vast genius the violin canT take it. The lalo is distorted beyond belief, and he hits the strings so hard the intonation is bent all over the shop ans well as a curious mistake (?) mannersim of playing a bnote fat and vibraing the pitch up and repeated scratched crunches of no aesthetic value whatsoever. There is little or no evocative Spanish charm. It is just an unquenchable manic performance. It wa srecorded in 2003. I think he has an extraordinary grasp of tthe toal scor eof anythign he plays and muscially huge and powerful ideras. I make anothe prediction that in ten yeras he will be ranked among the best conducters in the world.

Sometimes the violin just ain`t enough,

Cheers,

Buri

April 22, 2008 at 05:39 AM · Like what Milstein said that it’s silly for a grownup to be spending all his time scratching the fiddle. Seriously!

April 22, 2008 at 05:16 AM · Some people find the "struggling-to-overcome-the-obstacles" kind of performance enjoyable. Some don't. Same goes for spectators (or audience members, if you want to think of them that way). Not everybody gets more satisfaction out of playing the "difficult" kind. I know I don't.

As for Vengerov, who knows. Sometimes a life of constant travel can just wear a person out. It sounds exciting, being in a different city and soloing with a different orchestra every week; but after 10 or 15 years, it might not seem quite so exciting. Maybe he just needs a vacation. (That's my guess, because I'm pretty sure that's what would happen to me :\)

Maybe he could work up some excerpts and take a few orchestra auditions! :P

April 22, 2008 at 05:32 AM · He's been appearing around here as Max Vinegar, playing banjo. You think I'm kidding, don't you?

April 22, 2008 at 05:48 AM ·

April 22, 2008 at 05:45 AM · I wonder if this has anything to do with his weightlifting injury of last year?

April 22, 2008 at 05:33 AM · Ray:

Norman Lebrecht has been heralding the death of classical music for at least a decade.

I think he often has a point when he addresses some particular problem (e.g. here, with the question of "how does someone know he will want to play the Brahms concerto 3 years from now"); but IMHO he makes everything sound like it will mean the death of classical music if it isn't fixed RIGHT NOW.

I suppose the lesson he has in mind might be something like, "Allow soloists more freedom to choose their repertoire on short notice." Say for example: Vengerov (or whoever) signs a contract to play the Brahms in Cleveland (or wherever) in 2011, but in 2010 he gets really excited about the Rosza or Gruenberg or some other little-known concerto; and he thinks audiences will like hearing some piece they HAVEN'T heard 349 times already, especially if it's a good piece. But no, he has to play Brahms for the 350th time, because he signed the contract, or the orchestra's management is worried about ticket sales if some non-blockbuster is on the program, and doesn't want him to change it.

I could imagine someone getting tired of that.

April 22, 2008 at 05:34 AM · I wonder whether he will come back to being a professional violinist. Christopher Parkening, the fantastic classical guitarist who studied with Segovia and was considered to be Segovia's heir apparent, dropped out of his career. He and his wife settled down in Idaho, where she could ride horses and he could do trout fishing. He eventually became a prizewinner in competitive trout fishing. He said that when he returned to playing classical guitar, he was burnt out. At a young age, he had already played all the best and hardest guitar concertos with all the world's great orchestras. What made him come back? "I became a Christian," he said. He often quoted Bach's remark that the purpose of all music was for the greater glory of God." However, his return to the concert stage was short-lived. Now the only thing musical that he does for an audience is to teaches master classes in the summer at his home in Utah.

April 22, 2008 at 05:56 AM · Yixi, no, he really can play, believe it or not. He gives Bela Fluke a run for his money. No trout here, so he trotlines for cat.

April 22, 2008 at 06:11 AM · Oh Jim, I wasn't doubting your banjo comment. I thought it just took him kind of long to figure out something that I figured out at 13:) Spending one's entire life to just play the violin can be an unsettlingly thought at some point of one's life, but then I thought that was a silly comment; a silly comment from a silly person.

April 22, 2008 at 06:12 AM · Historic violin virtuosos have often composed violin music (Paganini, Ysaye, Sarasate, Kreisler etc) or they have arranged existing music for the violin. This has then contributed to a more interesting repertoire being available.

It seems that today's violin stars no longer do this. Yet, if they find the existing repertoire no longer that interesting, perhaps they should take a hint from their predecessors and contribute to the repertoire by composing or arranging. Unlike most contemporary compositions, music composed by somebody of celebrity status - whilst not a guarantee to success - would be far more likely to get the necessary exposure it takes to become well known and established as part of the standard repertoire.

April 22, 2008 at 06:15 AM · Yixi, he is "Living the Dream", you know. Of course the dream is simply become rich and famous as s*** and then do whatever the hell you want :)

April 22, 2008 at 06:27 AM · That’s an odd dream isn’t it? If you are too rich, ha, there are all sorts of troubles associated with that. A filthy rich guy I met in Shanghai recently told me how much he had to hide his wealth for the safety of his family. And if you are famous, you enjoy much less freedom or privacy and you have to watch your behind all the time. I'll say, if you want to do whatever the hell you want, be so poor that you've got nothing to lose.

April 22, 2008 at 06:33 AM · He just needs some rent-a-cops. Bring him here.

April 22, 2008 at 06:44 AM · Importing the Shanghai guy here? How?*

*edited to fit Jim's second version and to make the script more flowy :)

April 22, 2008 at 06:33 AM · Appeal to his ego. Tell him he'll be able to get suits that fit :)

April 22, 2008 at 06:35 AM · lol! that's a good one. I'll try if I get a chance:D

April 22, 2008 at 06:44 AM · I can picture it. "You're a good-looking guy. Hmmm yessss. Why do you wear this suit? Why shoulders like that? And that extra material there. Tsk tsk tsk."

April 22, 2008 at 07:57 AM · Didn´t Mutter say the same thing?

Maxim just want a break, he will be back within a year.

April 22, 2008 at 06:50 PM · Buri, that's a very good and interesting point you raise, that "he's such a genius the violin can't take it." That's basically the same thing Enescu felt like, from what I understand--my readings have told me that he basically hated playing the violin after a while, because he felt so limited.

That in itself raises an interesting debate though--there are some that feel like there is a whole world inside the violin itself and that such an instrument cannot be limiting, then there are the Enescus and Vengerovs of the world. There are geniuses in both categories, it's just an interesting philosophical debate.

April 22, 2008 at 10:58 PM · It is a great loss to us, but I imagine the concert circuit is its own kind of slavery. I don't blame Vengerov for claiming his independence. When he comes back, he'll have more to offer and I'll be there to listen.

April 22, 2008 at 11:23 PM · Well, Horowitz retired for 12 years.

Lets hope Maxim don't take such a long

time!

April 23, 2008 at 12:33 AM · Mara, is it a matter of geniusness or temperament? Probably both?

April 23, 2008 at 12:44 AM · I agree that he should try his hand at composition.

April 23, 2008 at 09:02 AM · Recent press reports have been much exaggerated. Maxim is not bored, giving up or retiring totally in favour of conducting. He is currently exploring several new projects for a while (including conducting, but also writing a book, founding a school on Migdal, and working on a DVD with Ken Howard). He is also taking some time to enjoy life for a while instead of being constantly on the circuit. He deserves it!!

Be patient, he will be back.

April 23, 2008 at 11:23 AM · "Yixi, no, he really can play, believe it or not. He gives Bela Fluke a run for his money. No trout here, so he trotlines for cat."

Jim, we Europeans may have difficulty following you, so who or what is Bela Fluke? Do you allude to the Ukulele or Mister Vinegar's banjo?

And could you please demonstrate how someone trotlines for cat?

Haj

April 23, 2008 at 11:54 AM · jim writes at a level that only native chinese tougues can understand him:)

essentially, it translates into: black cat white cat, as long as it catches mice, it is a cool cat.

April 23, 2008 at 12:37 PM · Hansjürgen, don't worry, I'm from the U.S. and I don't know what he's talking about either.

April 23, 2008 at 06:45 PM · I think Jim has been taking spelling lessons from Buri.

April 23, 2008 at 01:58 PM · He's a huge loss. But I'd guess there are a lot of violinists out there not having careers by choice because of the rigors of touring and in some instances the rigors of performing--it's simply not for everyone. Then there's the fact that the music business can be very ugly despite the fact that it purveys food for the soul.

April 23, 2008 at 04:35 PM · Pauline mentioned trout. Trotlining for cat is where you take a string and tie a hook every couple of feet, bait them with chicken livers, road kill, anything stinky. Toss it in the river with the other end tied to the bank. Come back the next day and you have enough catfish for the picnic.

April 23, 2008 at 05:32 PM · My family and I use to set trot lines to catch Red Drum (Red Fish) for Blackend Redfish! Mmmmmm nice memories. Now to the thread= Two books By Neil Peart that I read and the day in the life of a touring musician. After a while it's like asking a wise man banging his head against a wall why he's...banging his head against a wall? He does it because of how good it feels when he stops!

April 23, 2008 at 06:10 PM · I love my work (Respratory Therapy) and I can't wait to retire (sept 1/08). I've seen every aspect and permutation, getting into it at the bare beginning, late sixties, before there were specialty schools. Nurses and orderlies were trained up, then a few years later, schools started, in college, in hospitals, and we all took a step forward. Now you have to be licensed. Meds and machines evolved, ethics struggled to keep up...we can keep them alive/should we??? Quality of life swapped places with quantity, etc. I've always worked in busy hospitals with busy ERs, lots of variety, lots to learn/teach.

Fascinating. But if I work after I retire, and I probably will, it will be at something, somewhere, where the people I serve have to be healthy enough to walk up to me...I still volunteer, I sit with the dying. That is my give back. But I am (almost) done with the technical/bloodless/clinical. And it will be in warm, sunny, occasionally shakey California(YES!).If there is a wind blowing and white stuff on the ground, it will be sand!

I can completely understand leaving what has been loved and cherished, especially if it involves haring around the world. It gets old, or we do, and the magic dies. I'll bet you he still plays for himself...

April 23, 2008 at 08:31 PM · What is there left for him to do, musically?

Playing, there's only improvisation. He has played all the works that matter to him (and probably many that don't). So he needs to make up his own music.

Then there's composition, but the only difference between composition and improvisation is the timescale .

Still, for someone who is used to preparing a piece, composition would be preferable.

Conducting is not playing. It isn't making music. It is directing other people making music. Maybe it could be making a shape out of the music. But for Vengerov, I can't see it lasting. He seems to like to make music himself.

To perform takes great control of oneself, but conducting is trying to control other people.

Composition is trying to take control of what is possible in sound, and communicate that so that others can perform.

who know how Mr Vengerov will turn out? He seems to like to play.

gc

April 23, 2008 at 08:53 PM · As a psychologist who does a lot of counseling with career issues (among other things), I came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that we now live in the "Instantaneous Age." Everything is now evaluated by how quickly it happens, or how quickly we get it.

Everything seems to be based on the criterion of immediacy. The days of letting things play out over a period of years or even decades seems ancient history. We expect everything to be immediate. Maybe the overwhelming influence of the computer and the internet has had something to do with it - who knows?

To the extent that this is true, perhaps the experience of burnout can be expected to be more prevalent. One would think especially that in the comparatively rarified atmosphere of famous and talented violin virtuosos, the prospect of having your daily schedule knotted up for years to come and repeating the same comparatively limited repertoire constantly can come to feel like a life of endless boredom, no matter what the rewards and public adulation.

One wonders about the kind of psychological world that the virtuosos of previous generations lived in. For those who at least had long, long careers (like Joachim and Heifetz and all the rest), how did they handle the burnout issue?

Just a thought.

Sandy

April 23, 2008 at 10:11 PM · I've got some issues with Graeme's comments:

What is there left for him to do, musically?

Personally I think there's quite a lot that he can still explore.

Playing, there's only improvisation. He has played all the works that matter to him (and probably many that don't). So he needs to make up his own music.

What do you mean ONLY improvisation? You make it sound like it's not an actual option for him. I might be wrong here (might be thinking of a different violinist), but didn't he take a sabbatical a little while ago to prepare for a concerto which required him not only to learn how to play the viola, but also improvise on the electric violin and dance the tango! If I am mistaken, then this might be a good time for him to go and learn how to improvise.

Then there's composition, but the only difference between composition and improvisation is the timescale .

True, if you think about it that way. However, great improvisers do not make great composers, and great composers are not neccessarily great improvisers. They each have a certain set of skills that you need to master. For example, in improvisation, you're only interested in what you play and making it sound good. In composition, you actually have to figure out how much (or really, how little) you need to put on the page for someone else to be able to play it.

Still, for someone who is used to preparing a piece, composition would be preferable.

You don't know that. Improvisation done well takes quite a lot of preperation. Finding little figures that can be played over certain chords, making sure they can be played in all keys, slotting them into your memory so they can be brought out at any opportunity. There's a lot of preperation in improvisation. Plus he might prefer to be playing as opposed to sitting with a pen and paper plucking notes out of the air.

Conducting is not playing. It isn't making music. It is directing other people making music. Maybe it could be making a shape out of the music. But for Vengerov, I can't see it lasting. He seems to like to make music himself.

This is where I disagree most. Yes, conducting might not be actually playing, but it is making music. That is why a performance of Mozart 40 will sound remakably different under von Karajan as to Simon Rattle. Might be the same orchestra, but they have different approaches and that makes music.

To perform takes great control of oneself, but conducting is trying to control other people.

Yes, there's that aspect of control, but the conductors who get the best results also work with the orchestra. As he/she is the one who gets all the praise, the conductors real job is to make the orchestra sound as good as possible.

Composition is trying to take control of what is possible in sound, and communicate that so that others can perform.

You seem to think that this is different from the violin. Isn't playing the violin taking control of what is possible from sound, according to the notes on the page, and communicating your ideas so that others can hear?

who know how Mr Vengerov will turn out? He seems to like to play.

I have no doubt he likes to play. I doubt he would've gotten this far if he didn't. He may well need a break, and may come back to it, or may find that whatever he does he enjoys even more or is more successful at. Who knows, let's just support him in whatever he does.

April 23, 2008 at 11:21 PM · A break, or sabbatical, can do one some good! This is from ANY activity that one has done for quite a stretch.

I have been a software engineer for 20+ years, and I was really fried/bummed/tired. I resigned my previous job, and I went back to school for a couple of technical certifications in my field which I really enjoyed. I'm feeling alot better about the field, and I'm ready to go back.

I once went on a road tour in Hungary for 2+ weeks, performing Hungarian dance. It's quite exciting at first, but I can assure you, it gets really tiring as well. Traveling on business also gets old. Maybe he wants to stay home for a while!

April 23, 2008 at 11:51 PM · Ben,

I wrote>>Then there's composition, but the only difference between composition and improvisation is the timescale .

you wrote >>True, if you think about it that way. However, great improvisers do not make great composers, and great composers are not neccessarily great improvisers.

The greatest composers I know about (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and for fiddle, Paganini) wre all reputed to have been great improvisers. But I agree, it isn't at all a given that a top improviser will be a top composer. Neither is it given that a great player of an instrument could improvise or compose.

GC: Still, for someone who is used to preparing a piece, composition would be preferable.

Ben: You don't know that.

No of course I don't. Anything any of us say about Vengerov's situation is pure speculation. But thinking about what was stated in the thread above set me thinking in a certain direction. I have no firm knowledge as to what it must be like to be a fully trained (from an early age) virtuoso violinist who has played all the famous great repertoire works, and a few more besides. I just have to play around in my imagination to get any idea about it.

GC: Conducting is not playing. It isn't making music. It is directing other people making music. Maybe it could be making a shape out of the music. But for Vengerov, I can't see it lasting. He seems to like to make music himself.

Ben: This is where I disagree most. Yes, conducting might not be actually playing, but it is making music. That is why a performance of Mozart 40 will sound remakably different under von Karajan as to Simon Rattle. Might be the same orchestra, but they have different approaches and that makes music.

This is a fine point. Maybe I should have written only "playing" rather than "making". But I do feel that actually producing a sound is what constitutes making music. Conducting is to playing what directing is to acting.

GC: Composition is trying to take control of what is possible in sound, and communicate that so that others can perform.

Ben: You seem to think that this is different from the violin.

Yes, I do.

Bens: Isn't playing the violin taking control of what is possible from sound, according to the notes on the page, and communicating your ideas so that others can hear?

No. I see it as more limited than that. Playing the violin is getting all that is possible from that instrument, with its particular pitch and timbral range, sonic capabilities, and somewhat limited harmonic possibilities . A composer can work with any set of instruments and voices. Much more scope.

gc

April 24, 2008 at 02:04 AM · I hope he comes back. I heard him play the Tchaikovsky once and it was brilliant. What really came across was the level of projection. You could hear him clearly. Just before, I'd heard another soloist play the Mendelssohn, and there was no comparison in tone.

This point about child prodigies is one I've often pondered. You become a whiz bang violinist by 15. Can play anything, really well. Then 5 or more decades of playing at only a slightly increased level from when you began - given artistic maturity etc. Milstein ultimately triumphed here. He spoke at times of feeling slightly silly, earlier in his career. But in his old age he truly loved the violin again.

The ultimate situation would to be an 'adult prodigy' in my opinion. Then you have less decades in which to ply your artistic wares. Can also have a more normal childhood. Don't know if anyone will ever achieve this though. Musicians in other traditions do (Ralph Towner, and Wes Montgomery).

April 25, 2008 at 01:30 PM · It must be difficult to constantly be traveling, living out of a suitcase, in a hotel. He must constantly be playing in orchestras and that too can be very lonely. Think about it - you're in the middle of the program. Before you play everyone is on stage without you. After you play everyone is on stage without you as well. You're not really part of the orchestra, you're just visiting. Vengerov seems like a down to earth person, no someone who takes well to be a complete loner and this is why he's stepping away. This is a great thing for him rather than burning out going on and on like this.

April 25, 2008 at 09:07 PM · And think about just going out to eat at a restraunt and quiet evening with just some background music, a drink and someone or three recognize you and.... Hey, it's that famouse musician, can I have an autograph, let me get a picture of you, etc., etc.

April 25, 2008 at 09:50 PM · Right,it must be tough to be on the very top of your game !

April 26, 2008 at 02:17 AM · Neil wrote that it does get old, on the one hand you know what you are getting into ...privacy in public out the window, but at the same time it's not every day you meet a celebrity. And the incident of John Lennon outside his apartment.....

March 19, 2011 at 08:52 PM ·

But he can't quit! I'm 15 and never got to see him perform yet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And as far as his artistic ability, Heifetz said that there was no top, there are always further heights to reach. Even at his level, he can enjoy how great he is by listening to himself play, right?

March 19, 2011 at 09:04 PM ·

don't worry:

http://maximvengerovfans.co.uk/

March 20, 2011 at 03:15 AM ·

I'd be very very interested to see him perform improvised music live, whether in person or recording!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpCZYYAL5AQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uda9rEvJp-o

March 20, 2011 at 05:30 AM ·

oups it's an old thread.... sorry

I saw him recently in a masterclass.  He didn't play like a quitter ; ) and looked very happy

 

March 20, 2011 at 07:52 AM ·

I thought I read somewhere that he had repetetive stress injury issues from his stance.  Is that incorrect?

March 20, 2011 at 08:47 AM ·

He has an amazing personality and a marvellous attitude towards music and life in general.

March 20, 2011 at 07:54 PM ·

I think he will be back.  He is not giving up playing completely, just stopping his performing career.  He said a while back that the wear and tear was damaging to him.  He is still giving masterclasses though, and he is a great teacher.  

March 22, 2011 at 09:03 AM ·

"He said a while back that the wear and tear was damaging to him."
 
@Michael, by wear and tear, do you mean injury, or are you referring to the lifestyle sacrifices related to being on tour?
 
Speaking of wear and tear, does anyone know if Josh Bell has had (is having) RSI issues?

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe